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New gambling deal gets Legislature’s nod

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Florida stands to glean billions from a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe that was ratified by the State’s Legislature last week. But while Gov. Ron DeSantis applauded the Legislature’s acceptance of the pact, anti-gambling advocates contend that the deal will not be beneficial to Floridians in the long run.

Under its 2021 Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the State will realize a minimum of $2.5 billion in new revenue for the state over the next five years and an estimated $6 billion through 2030. The revenue will be derived through Tribal payments to the State.

Under a similar agreement inked in 2010, the Seminole Tribe paid the State $350 million annually. The Tribe stopped making those payments in 2019 when the court ruled that the State had violated that agreement. As a result, the Tribe is not currently making any revenue payments to the State.

In exchange for the payments, the deal gives the Seminole Tribe exclusive right to sports betting statewide. Under current Florida law, it is illegal for residents to participate in unregulated gambling activities such as offshore sports betting. The State also prohibits would-be gamblers from playing poker at an unregulated facility or over an unregulated gambling device.

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According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the compact is a boon to the State’s overall economy.

The breakdown of the 2010 compact has denied the state of Florida any revenue derived from the Seminole Tribe’s ongoing gaming operations — including what is the most profitable casino in the United States, located in Hillsborough County,” DeSantis said. “With this new compact, the state will now see a large stream of recurring revenue to the tune of billions of dollars over the next few years; The deal will also create over 2,000 jobs.”

Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) also praised the agreement.

This legislation has been a long time coming,” Simpson said. “This historic Compact restores Florida’s relationship with the Seminole Tribe, offers new opportunities for Florida’s legacy pari-mutuel industry, and provides substantial new revenues for our state.”

Some gambling opponents do not agree that the deal is a boon to the State.

We don’t want to be the destination Casino State,” said Florida Family Action President John Stemberger.

DeSantis announced the gaming compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida in April.

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